Dr. Weidhaas is a physician-scientist who trained as a Radiation Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering, with broad exposure to the clinical and biological behavior of cancer of all types. Her scientific training is in molecular biology with post-doctoral work in genetics and radiobiology. Dr. Weidhaas’s clinical work has primarily focused on women’s cancers, and she was the head of the Breast Radiation Oncology Services at Yale before moving to UCLA in 2014. Additionally, Dr. Weidhaas founded a molecular diagnostics company in 2010, and subsequently earned her MSM at Stanford in 2013. The fundamental purpose of her work is to break down the barriers between science and clinical cancer care, to significantly improve personalized treatment and ultimately outcome for cancer patients. In January 2015, Dr. Weidhaas became the full-time Director of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Oncology.
Dr. Weidhaas’s Research Interests
Dr. Weidhaas’s scientific focus has been on the genetics behind the radiation response and cancer biology. Much of her current work focuses on the discovery and characterization of functional germ-line genetic markers that predict cancer risk as well as tumor biology, allowing insight into the causes of cancer, as well as potential avenues for use of such mutations as biomarkers to lead to better treatment for cancer patients. Her early work on microRNAs (miRNAs), important recently discovered global genetic regulators, are dynamically regulated in response to cancer treatment, specifically to radiation, work that was a meaningful advance in the understanding of the role of miRNAs in cancer. This insight led to her group’s discovery of the first germ-line miRNA binding site mutation, which is an inherited variant in the 3’ untranslated region (3’UTR) of the KRAS oncogene. This mutation, now referred to as the KRAS-variant, increases cancer risk, primarily for women, and also predicts unique tumor biology, partly through conserved miRNA and gene expression changes in the tumors of patients that harbor it. This has been shown to result in altered response to cancer treatment for these patients, who can represent 25% of newly diagnosed cancer patients, indicating that the KRAS-variant is a strong candidate as a prognostic biomarker to direct therapeutics. She additionally continues her work investigating and defining the fundamental biology and mechanisms of miRNAs in the cancer, and stress response. By focusing on overall tumor biology globally and specifically the functional germ-line genetic markers that drive tumor biology, her laboratory seeks to facilitate insight into ways to significantly improve and advance personalized cancer care.